I must admit, the term "Dazed and Confused", sums up how I feel about Mercedes AMG in Formula One.
Allow me to expand on that thought. I would have figured that Mercedes, who clearly have the best power plant in the sport at the moment, with its resources, would be able to build very competitive challenger by now. That really hasn't been the case.
I would have argued with anyone that their development rate would put the fear of gods and titans into their rivals. With all of Mercedes' resources, money and knowledge, it would be a reasonable argument. That would be an argument, it seems, I would have lost.
I would have bet and sworn like a drunken sailor on a three day pass that Ross Brawn would have the team running like a Rolex time piece with “Oyster Perpetual” motion with the cleverest strategy on the pit wall. I would have missed the last bus out of town with that prediction.
I was absolutely convinced that Schumacher would be back on form by now, with Rosberg on top form as well, making them one of the most feared driver duos on the grid. Yet between them both, combined, they only have 106 points which would still be behind the 116 points Kimi Raikkonen has amassed as he sits 5th in the WDC.
If you sit there reading this while scratching your head, you might see why this has been a bit of a mystery.
Rather than having made up ground to its rivals by the mid-season mark, Mercedes ended the last race before the break with perhaps one of their worst performances thus far. A couple of embarrassing errors made by Schumacher even before the race started, saw him forced to start from the pit lane. This was compounded by a puncture for which he was forced to make an unscheduled pit stop. The salt in the already painful wound came in the form of a penalty for speeding in pit lane. Nico Rosberg was able to salvage the day with a single point for the German team.
A sad state considering the team started the season with promise and even snagged a victory in China.
Part of the issue might be because Mercedes may have put too much emphasis on its "Double DRS" system that links front and rear wings. Some rivals wondered if they should go down this route, but Mercedes' lack of results has answered this question for them and saved them much time, money and resources. If Mercedes developed updates for their car based on this system, it might also explain why they haven't been able to make up much ground if the system is less effective during races when DRS use is limited.
There is also the matter of tyre wear. Many teams have struggled and continue to struggle with tyre management, switching the tyres on, avoiding the dreaded performance "CLIFF" and degradation. I have done some research with much reading and with the help of people like Craig Scarborough (@ScarbsF1) through questions answered, which has me convinced that this Double DRS has hampered the team's ability to manage the new Pirelli tyres. Having to compensate on car balance and limiting front end grip has given the Mercedes some understeering characteristics. This may have had an adverse effect by way of tyre scrubbing and most notably, moving away from a more oversteering behaviour from the car that Schumacher tends to adapt better to.
With half of the 2012 season over, it would be difficult to imagine that Mercedes will be able to challenge for the WCC title. I would hazard to guess that the drivers would struggle to make a run for the WDC title as well. HOWEVER, we know Mercedes has the straight line speed advantage. If they can come to terms with the car's balance, develop an exhaust and rear end design more in line with the leading rivals and get on top of the Pirelli tyres, there is no reason to think they couldn't claw back.
The ultimate question is, Will they? Filled with piss and vinegar, their rivals will not sit still and just allow Mercedes to overtake them. This mystery may have an answer, but we’ll have to wait for the rest of the season to play out before we know for certain.